Pro-choice vs. reproductive justice: sound bites vs. dialogue

Truthout published an article today entitled “Choice and Reproductive Justice: ‘Not an Either/Or’” (http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/26647-choice-and-reproductive-justice-rj-not-an-either-or) which addresses the complex topic of abortion rights in the U.S. and the impact of this conversation on American women. An interesting political dimension is the juxtaposition of the terms “pro-choice” vs. “reproductive justice,” or RJ, defined as “a concept that includes the right to terminate a pregnancy, access effective birth control, express sexuality and have the children one wants, free of coercion.” RJ is apparently not a new concept – but new to many of us nowadays – and was created several decades ago as a social treatment of the complex issue of motherhood, which involves questions of child care (will the father be involved and how), questions of housing and public assistance for low-income potential mothers, even the sensitive subject of female sexuality as an often-overlooked component to the dialogue. RJ, according to the article, doesn’t seek to supplant the term “pro-choice” but rather asks it to go further and accommodate social and economic conversations that are far too often glossed over in what is usually boiled down to a moralistic issue of “to kill or not to kill” by conservatives.

The article lauds the efforts of women of color in moving the conversation about abortion rights to an interdisciplinary forum in which health care, living wage, community needs and the ability of individuals to determine their family goals, making this part of public discourse relevant and accessible to a broader range of American families. It is interesting to think about how the use of a sound bite like “pro-choice” can gain balance and depth from the 360-degree view that the topic of RJ provides. For once, the shorthand doesn’t win out, thank goodness; public discourse on the eternal issues of life, liberty, family, and happiness can continue to comprise the voices of many colorful people, rather than a few pale and powerful ones.

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